Failure of management and regulation to blame for Croydon tragedy

07 December 2017

The RAIB report into the derailment of a tram at Sandilands will be published this afternoon.



The loved ones of those killed and injured deserve to hear more than either the usual cliche that “lessons will be learned ” or hear the familiar sound of the scapegoating of individuals. There needs to be a fundamental change in the way that tram operating companies are managed and regulated.

The final report by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch into the derailment of a tram at Sandilands makes clear that neither regulators nor management understood the potential for such a serious incident.

Finn Brennan, ASLEF’s organiser on Tramlink, said: ʻFrom its inception, the Croydon Tramlink system was treated as a “bus on rails”. If the same standards used for toughened glass on main line or light rail vehicles was used in the construction of trams, then the deaths and most serious injuries could have been avoided.

ʻThe management culture at Tram Operations Ltd meant that drivers were afraid to report mistakes or errors for fear of being disciplined. The result was that the opportunity to learn lessons from previous incidents and avoid repeating them was missed.

ʻWhile individual senior managers have changed since the accident, the culture at Tram Operations hasn’t. Drivers still fear their job is at risk if they report being tired or that they will be disciplined for reporting sick.

ʻThere is still a serious lack of coordination between TfL, who are responsible for infrastructure, and Tram Operations, who operate the system. Just two weeks ago, new speed control signage was installed without drivers being told in advance.

ʻThe recommendation to install a tram protection system that can automatically apply brakes to a speeding vehicle is long overdue. TfL should commit to firm timescales for installation now with no more delays. This should cover the entire system, especially given that management and regulators have shown themselves to be so poor at identifying risks.

ʻThere is no evidence that the Guardian device, the interim system used to monitor drivers’ alertness, would have done anything to prevent this terrible tragedy. Tram Operations Ltd should be dealing with the underlying causes of fatigue among staff, by recruiting enough drivers to eliminate the need for overtime working and developing a fair culture that supports, rather than blames, staff who are ill or are struggling to cope with work life balance and shift working.’

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